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February 18, 2009
Shot of a No.3
Now we know why James Anderson kept his place for this match ahead of Ryan Sidebottom - because of his nightwatchman skills. He did the job twice, and on the fourth morning had the freedom to play a few shots thanks to England's incredibly strong position. His stand-out effort was a forcing back-foot drive through the covers which wouldn't have disgraced the man at the other end, Alastair Cook. No wonder there was the occasional confusion about who was on strike.
Taking one for the team
Owais Shah has made a good impression on his long-awaited return to the Test team and came out with positive intent after replacing Anderson. He swung Daren Powell over midwicket for a huge six and was always keen to keep the scoreboard moving. His dismissal came in selfless style as he heaved at Powell again and was bowled. It was especially impressive that someone returning to the side only had thoughts of the team's cause.
Only an inch, but it's enough
He is tall, granted, and has a long stride, but there's no excuse for Sulieman Benn bowling no-balls. He found out what it feels like to miss out on a wicket when Kevin Pietersen drove a return catch straight to him, only to see Rudi Koertzen's arm outstretched. Replays showed he was only an inch over, but that's enough. In the context of the game it didn't matter hugely, but at some point it will.
We all now that Pietersen likes to bring out the switch-hit - and he often manages it with great success - but in this innings he went to extremes. During an over from Ryan Hinds he almost spent it batting left handed. He was actually like a jack-in-a-box, struggling to stay still for very long and again seemed to make batting look hard work. In the end, the switch-hit brought his downfall - for the first time - but it's unlikely to stop him wheeling it out.
There's nothing unusual about seeing the fielders' delight when a wicket falls, especially one as important as Chris Gayle, but Cook's jig of joy could have been for another reason, too. He had the tough job of fielding silly point when Graeme Swann was bowling to Gayle, and one shot off the back foot struck him a painful blow around the buttock area. Even when Gayle shouldered arms, Cook was swinging round in invasive action. No wonder he was so pleased to see the umpire's finger go up.
Captain fills in
Andrew Strauss has stepped up in this Test and led from the front. His 169 set the tone for England's dominance, but instead of resting on his laurels he put himself in at silly point with Andrew Flintoff struggling due to his hip problem. Normally Ian Bell would be in there but he's been dropped, and Owais Shah hasn't got the best hands in the game, so Strauss grabbed the helmet and perched himself under the batsman's nose. Swann would have focussed even harder on not bowling long-hops - he wouldn't want the captain to get hit.
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